Introspection Required: Harry Follows Edward’s Lead in Exposing Royal Redundancy

So, the Queen has momentarily quietened the latest scandal to afflict the British royal family by supporting Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s desire to take a ‘step back’ by allowing a ‘period of transition’ as they split their time between the UK and Canada.

At 93, Elizabeth II must have thought that her days of fixing family issues were long gone, but such is not the case with an institution so archaic and inflexible as to feel redundant for most ordinary people. Or so it would seem.

The Queen is reputedly very unhappy with the Sussex’s

The public reaction to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s surprise announcement, and the media frenzy that followed, shows how deeply ingrained interest in the lives of the royal family remains in modern Britain. It seems a particularly quixotic sideshow for many people despite the inherent dullness of much of the Windsor clan.

A Mail Online poll suggests the public feel as betrayed as the Queen by the Sussex’s decision

Obvious comparisons can be drawn between Prince Harry’s wish to alleviate the royal burden from himself and the decision by Edward VIII to abdicate the throne in 1936. Whilst not as drastic a turn of events – Harry is, after all, only sixth in line to the throne – the circumstances of Edward’s abdication and the personalities involved show some parallels with the current ‘crisis’.

Having only ascended the throne in January 1936, Edward VIII’s reign never seem destined to be a long or happy one. A reputed playboy in his youth, he never wanted to be king and showed disdain towards royal tradition on his ascension, failing in the eyes of many to act in a manner befitting of a royal. Breaking point came with the entrance into his life of an American woman (cue comparisons with Ms Markle).

Wallis Simpson was a soon to be twice-divorced woman when her and Edward entered a relationship. Scandal abounded at the royal court and the public were just as horrified by the news that their monarch was dallying with a treacherous divorcee. This was particularly troublesome given that the King was the titular head of the Church of England, which thoroughly disapproved of re-marriage after divorce.

Edward was not to be deterred, however, and he renounced the throne to marry ‘the woman I love’.

A scandalous marriage: the former Edward VIII (then Duke of Windsor) ties the knot with Wallis Simpson in France, June 1937

It could be argued that the appearance of Wallis Simpson on the scene was the perfect excuse for Edward to justify turning his back on a duty he never wanted to fulfill. One may be equally cynical and suggest that Meghan Markle offered Harry a similar opportunity.

Never appearing comfortable within the royal fold – how could anyone born outside such bizarre tradition and conformity? – Meghan has rumoured to have been agitating for a break from the stifling role of monarchical ambassador. Harry, too, has frequently castigated the unfair attention directed at his family (especially from the press), seemingly pained by having to tow the royal line.

Whereas Edward retained royal titles and proceeded to live the life of riley after his abdication – cosying up to Hitler, socialising with the elite on both sides of the Atlantic, landing a cushy number as Governor of the Bahamas – Harry does not given the impression that he simply wants the easy life.

Edward was accused of being a Nazi sympathiser

Already deeply engaged in charitable work (as is Meghan), the Prince clearly just yearns for a break from the spotlight. Questions will necessarily still rumble regarding the Sussex’s income, for how can they continue to take taxpayer money without being paraded on show from time to time?

If ever there was an opportunity for some introspection from the royal family then it is now. This is not a modern institution in touch with reality, its global role and clout diminishing by the year as the heady days of Commonwealth unity disappear in the rearview mirror. Losing one of its most popular members – however conclusively – is a devastating blow and neither the Queen nor Prince Phillip will last much longer despite their remarkable longevity.

It remains to be seen whether Prince Charles, or his elder son William, have the energy and desire to re-invent the British monarchy for the 21st century.

Kate Pregnancy Sets Stage for Pointless Excitement

The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant. Get prepared for seven months of name suggestions, foetal health updates and unnecessary public excitement. As with the  William/Kate wedding in April 2011, the lead-up to the birth of the future heir to the British throne is likely to be followed as closely as the US presidential election race. There is, of course, one obvious difference in circumstance; the US presidential election mattered.

During Diana, Princess of Wales’ pregnancy with Prince William in 1981-1982, the British press kept a close tabs on her conditioning and increasing rotundness. There was almost an outbreak of public grief when Diana fell down a Sandringham staircase twelve weeks into her pregnancy and the worst was feared. Fortunately, the royal foetus was not damaged. Scrutiny pervaded her gestation period until the very end, with further panic setting in after she entered labour early and endured a difficult birth. Only on the sounding of the 41-gun salute did the country breathe a collective sigh of relief as confirmation of the birth of a male heir (the best type) was given in the traditional manner.

Diana's pregnancy with William was eagerly followed by the British people
Diana’s pregnancy with William was eagerly followed by the British people

There is already mild sympathy for Kate, who has been treated in hospital for morning sickness. Of course, she does not appear to suffer from the same general health problems that plagued the young Diana, who was ten years Kate’s junior during her pregnancy. The country’s political leaders are already lauding the announcement. David Cameron wrote on Twitter that he was “delighted by the news”, exclaiming that Kate and Will would “make wonderful parents”. The hapless Labour leader Ed Milliband had to have his say too, declaring that a royal baby is something “the whole country can celebrate”.

Wrong again Ed. The irrelevance of a royal baby could not be greater at this current time. Ordinary people are concerned about job security, economic malaise and declining living standards. What good is a royal baby going to do? Lift their spirits? The politicians will no doubt use the pregnancy as a convenient diversion from the genuine problems affecting the country. Worryingly, it will probably work. Those brain-dead, over-sentimental simpletons with too much time on their hands will be overjoyed by the prospects of half-a-year of celebrating, fuelled by hopeless rags like the Daily Express which have not missed a day of printing Princess Diana’s name since her untimely death in 1997.

As was the case with Diana, we hope for a happy ending to Kate’s pregnancy. Yet, aside from the genuine joy it will bring the lucky couple, what real relevance does it have for Great Britain? The monarchy has long lost any executive or legislative power and its remaining symbolic power is highly debatable. Whilst it might help sell a few tacky souvenirs to money-laden tourists and bring light entertainment to many Americans, the British monarchy is essentially a defunct institution. The expense of keeping the royal court in befitting finery is great; the payback not so. Whilst the royal family can act as ambassadors for Britain overseas (and most of the Windsors do a fine job of this) the old loyalty to the Commonwealth is waning. Nations of the Empire have been independent too long; their people unaccustomed to the period of British rule and patronage.

It is time the hysterics over the monarchy stopped. Leave them in peace and call time on the institution before this latest heir is born. Otherwise, the wastefulness and monarchical profligacy will continue and the real “issues” will continue to be strategically buried beneath appeals to sentiment.